AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — I-295 is one of the fastest routes to travel between southern Maine and Augusta, but commuters know its congested and becoming increasingly more dangerous.

The Maine DOT is in the midst of a study they hope will help clear some of that up.

It's worst traffic usually hits at rush hour, and the worst of it, DOT officials said, stretches for miles between Portland and Brunswick.

"The numbers are showing an increase in volume and we are certainly seeing an increase in accidents," Chief Engineer Joyce Taylor said, "so we are just beginning to look into the data."

That data ranges from traffic volume to timing to crash reports — even national numbers that show an overall increase in travel with lower gas prices.

"Try to quickly get some facts because we know people are having accidents and we don't want that," Taylor said. "So if there's anything we can do to prevent them, what can we do in the next six months? What can we do in the next two years? Then go from there."

Taylor said they hear a lot of questions about an expansion, but it's not that simple. "I think it's fair to say anything like that is at least 10 years away from ever happening, so we haven't even started the process of thinking about it."

Before they can even talk about expanding, they have to do environmental studies that include looking at options to increase ride sharing and getting more traffic onto the Turnpike and off of I-295.

For now, they're focused on short and mid-term fixes. Taylor said accidents increase when the traffic slows down, so they've added signs reminding drivers to watch for brake lights.

They're also looking into whether certain on-ramps should be elongated for easier merging.